Top tips for skiing in the area
Pila is the closest large resort and has quite enough to keep you amused for at least three days - some people stay there all week. Away from the beginners slopes it is remarkably quiet - even over New Year, the top of the mountain is congestion-free. There are some serious semi off-piste areas at the top: you cannot go for miles through untracked powder, but there are some very challenging runs close to the pistes.
Eating on the mountain
All the mountain restaurants and bars offer reasonable food at decent prices, but the best food is in one of the least attractive places. The Hermitage (almost opposite the La Nouva lift) looks like a fast-food joint, but the hot food is excellent. Try the Vellpelinentze, an local soup of broth, cabbage and cheese. It sounds awful, but it has kept generations of mountain-dwellers warm and nourished. If you want to splash out on something a bit more fancy, go to La Societe close to the top of the La Nouva lift. It is essentially a very sophisticated restaurant that happens to be on a ski slope (and costs half what a similar restaurant would cost in France). It also offers evening meals, when you are taken up the mountain in a piste-basher. For an excellent lunch-time pizza, go to La Montanara. As you start going up the Leisse chairlift, you will see it on the right about 10 metres out of the lift station.
If you are decent intermediate, start on the red runs parallel to the Chamole lift. They are fast, usually kept in very good condition and generally quiet - the beginners are kept well away. From Red 3, you can cut left to the Leisse chair that takes you up towards the top of the mountain. If the snow is in good conditions there is an unmarked run directly under the lower section of the Chamole lift - in really good years, you come straight down and end up skiing on the roof of a cowshed! You can then ski down below Chamole on a new run that takes you to the first intermediate station of the gondola. Again, with the right snow you can carry on to the second intermediate station - but you do have to take your skis off and cross one road en-route.
At the top is a serious unpisted bowl (on the right of Couis 2 as you go up on the lift) where you can practice your powder technique if the snow is good. It can be closed after heavy snowfalls, though as the steep slope is prone to avalanches. A great semi-off-piste run is from Couis 1 at the top of the mountain where you can short cut the winding black by coming down in a straight line. There is also a new small magic carpet lift from the top of Couis 1 that takes you to a new black run and an excellent little off-piste area.
Eating on the Mountain
There are tons to choose from, but a particular favourite is La Grolla in the Val Veny area, which has two advantages: the lovely sun terrace and some exceptional home-made pasta (the rest of the menu is good but not exceptional). Another one is Chiecco, just above the main lift station (on your right as you ski back close to the trees). A nice, rustic interior, good food and the spectator sport of watching Anna, the owner, turn every meal-time into a drama of operatic proportions.
Courmayeur is home to one of the world's most famous ski runs - the epic 22 km Valle Blanche all the way to Chamonix (from where you get a bus back to Courmayeur). You will need a guide, so book ahead. The run is mostly quite gentle - the hardest part is climbing down the steel steps from the lift station at the start. However, do exactly what your guide tells you - only he knows where the hidden crevasses are located. There are also fantastic off-piste runs from the top of Youla and Arp - but again you will need a guide to get the best out of the terrain.
One tip to bear in mind if you are driving from Aosta. Parking in the centre of Courmayeur is pretty fraught. It is much better to use the Dolonne lift (signposted from the first roundabout as you come into the centre of the town by the bus station), which has a new multi-storey car park. Alternatively you can drive past the entrance to the town (still come off the motorway as if you were going into Courmayeur) and carry on for a couple of kilometers in the direction of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, parking next to the modern Val Veny lift near Entreves, which is free.
From the top of the mountain (Chaz Dura lift), there is a semi off-piste run that loops around the back side of the mountain to Les Suches. However, you need to ask a local to make sure you are not taking the wrong line and you need to be an advanced skier - the very top section is steep and tricky. Otherwise the area around the Chaz Dura lift has great on-piste skiing.
You can also pop over into La Rosiere in France (part of the same lift pass) which has some nice red runs around Belvedere.
The thing about Monterosa is that it is a huge area 鳴 km ) with comparatively few runs - each lift might only have one or two pistes. That makes for a sense of adventure as you traverse three different valleys to experience the whole resort. The off-piste here is legendary - in the right conditions (admittedly not that frequent) it is one of the world's greats. However, you really need to get a guide - this is a vast area and you don't want to get lost at 3 pm when your car is in a different valley . If you are going for the day, drive to Gressoney: that is the middle valley, so it gives you the most flexibility.
Eating on the mountain
One of the great mountain restaurants is Grande Halte, built in 1911 as a hotel for climbers. It is on the run down to Alagna from Gressoney (via Punta Indren), and has some spectacular home made specialities such as spicy honey or onion confiture. It is cheaper than a fast-food restaurant in France or Switzerland, and provides a meal you will remember.